Australia’s male cricket team has decided to cancel a planned series of games against Afghanistan as a form of protest against the Taliban’s limitations on the education and employment opportunities for women and girls. The statement was released by Cricket Australia (CA) on Thursday.
The statement stated that the teams had planned to compete in three One Day International (ODI) matches in the United Arab Emirates in March. However, CA made the decision to call off the series after having discussions with various parties, including the Australian government.
CA is dedicated to promoting and expanding the sport for both women and men globally, including in Afghanistan. The organization will maintain communication with the Afghanistan Cricket Board with hopes for improved opportunities for women and girls in the nation.
In December, the Taliban declared that female students would not be allowed to attend university. This decision came after a previous ruling in March that prevented girls from going back to secondary school. These closures had been in effect since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021.
In the following month, the Taliban issued a directive for all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to prohibit their female employees from reporting to work. They warned that failure to comply would lead to the revocation of their licenses.
The ACB issued a statement on Thursday in response to CA’s decision, calling it “disappointing” and an effort to politicize the sport.
The statement stated that Cricket Australia’s focus on political agendas instead of fair sportsmanship is harming the game’s integrity and straining the relationship between the two countries.
“The decision to withdraw from playing the upcoming ODI series against Afghanistan is unfair and unexpected and will have a negative impact on the development and growth of cricket in Afghanistan, as well as affect[ing] the love and passion of the Afghan nation for the game.”
The ACB announced that it is contemplating what steps to take regarding the issue, which may involve contacting the International Cricket Council (ICC) and reconsidering the involvement of Afghan players in Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL).
The statement issued by ACB came after remarks made by well-known Afghan athlete Rashid Khan.
Khan, a member of the Adelaide Strikers team in this year’s BBL, shared a message on Twitter saying, “Let’s keep politics out of it.”
“Khan expressed deep disappointment upon learning that Australia has withdrawn from the March series against us,” wrote Khan.
I am proud to represent my country, and we have achieved significant advancements globally. Unfortunately, this decision by CA hinders our progress on this journey.
“If the thought of playing against Afghanistan is causing discomfort for Australia, then I do not wish to cause discomfort for anyone by participating in the BBL. As a result, I will seriously contemplate my involvement in that league.”
Earlier, CA had withdrawn their support for a planned Test match against Afghanistan, which was scheduled to take place in Tasmania in November 2021. This decision was made in response to the Taliban’s restriction on women’s involvement in sports.
Cricket Australia stated that promoting the development of women’s cricket on a global scale is of utmost importance. They believe that cricket should be a sport that is accessible to everyone, and they fully endorse women’s participation at all levels of the game.
On Thursday, Anika Wells, the sports minister of Australia, stated that Canberra is in favor of Cricket Australia’s decision.
“The decision made by Cricket Australia to withdraw from the upcoming men’s One Day International series against Afghanistan has been welcomed by the Australian government. This comes after the Taliban’s recent actions in suppressing the rights of women and girls,” she posted on Twitter.
The Taliban had promised to safeguard the rights of girls and women, but their actions have been contradictory as they have taken away the rights that women have fought hard for over the last twenty years.
Several major international aid organizations and the United Nations have announced a temporary halt to their activities in Afghanistan due to the recent restriction on female employees working for non-governmental organizations.